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Chain Hoists

Choosing the Right Hoist for the Job

Ask yourself these questions to pick the hoist that will get the job done safely and efficiently.  

Lifting and lowering heavy loads can be complex and dangerous, so it’s important to have the right hoist for the job. Knowing when to use a chain hoist or electric hoist and what other equipment you’ll need will make completing the task easier and safer. 

Joe Aucoin, manager of regional maintenance at United Rentals Tool Solutions, suggested asking yourself the following four questions before choosing a hoist to rent.  

What is your load?

The most important thing to consider when choosing a hoist is how much weight you will be lifting. There is a huge variation in the capabilities of hoists. Some hoists are designed to lift just 1,000 pounds, while others can lift more than 50 tons. Using a hoist with a weight capacity rating that’s too low is dangerous. 

When calculating the weight rating you need, double check your math. Aucoin said people often forget that one ton is 2,000 pounds — a simple mistake that can lead to trouble on the job. 

While it’s smart to round up when calculating your load, you don’t have to worry about incorporating too much wiggle room. United Rentals tests all hoists with 125 percent of the rated load before renting them to customers. 

Do you want a chain hoist or electric hoist?

Choosing between a chain hoist, which is operated manually, and an electric hoist comes down to how much manpower you have, how far the load is traveling and how quickly you want to lift it. A manual chain hoist lifts at about 2 feet per minute, said Aucoin, even if the load is 15 tons or more. An electric hoist is much quicker, moving between 8 feet and 28 feet per minute. If you’re lifting the load higher than 30 feet, it’s much more efficient to use an electric hoist, Aucoin noted. 

Air chain hoists use compressed air to lift especially heavy loads and are useful for high duty cycle applications. Note that operating them requires special training and in some cases, certification. 

What will I rig the hoist to on-site?

Some worksites have I-beams or other infrastructure that can be used to rig up a hoist. If yours doesn’t, you’ll need to also rent a gantry crane. This piece of equipment consists of two A-frames with a beam connecting them. The beam can be used to support a hoist and give you the leverage you need to lift a load. Be sure the gantry crane is rated for the load you’ll be hoisting. 

What other equipment do I need?

If you’re renting a hoist, you’ll likely need additional equipment. Oftentimes, the onsite engineer will dictate exactly what is needed for the job, said Aucoin. Jobs that require a hoist often also need the following tools, all of which must be selected with a weight rating appropriate to the job:

  • A beam clamp, used to connect the hoist to the beam
  • A beam trolley, used to move the load horizontally from one spot along the beam to another
  • A come-along tool, designed for horizontal pulling; this can be used to position a load once it has been hoisted, especially if a beam trolley is not available. 

Lifting and moving heavy loads can be daunting, but with the right equipment it doesn’t have to be. 


Kelly Burch is a freelance writer who covers business, manufacturing and consumer guidance. 

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